Sometimes Those Who Teach Can Also Do
CB: One other music question: in "Silence Of The Lamb," Deputy Leo tells Veronica his trick of inviting girls to see his band to see if they're into him. Is that anything you might have done at some point?
RT: That was pretty much straight out of my own life! It was the only way I could ask girls out [laughs]. Honest to God, when I quit the band, I couldn't talk to women. I didn't know how anymore. If I couldn't invite them to the show and come down off the stage with swagger and alcohol, I had no idea. Not to mention when I quit the band and moved to L.A. -- well, being broke in L.A. with a shitty job is not a good way to start dating.
CB: Well, you figured something out, obviously. Starting in 1990 or thereabouts, I believe, you taught high-school journalism for five years, and then you moved to L.A. and wrote Rats Saw God, which has a high-school setting.
RT: Well, just to clarify, I taught high school in San Antonio for two years, then advised the University of Texas student magazine for a year, and then taught high school again in Austin for two years. Then I moved to L.A. to work for Channel One, the teen news network, which got a lot of criticism, because some people thought we were just shoving Doritos down kids' throats. Not that there weren't a lot of great creative jobs at Channel One -- I just didn't have one of them. During that time I felt like I had no creative outlet at all, so I started writing a page a day, and Rats Saw God was the result. It all happened really quickly -- it only took me a couple months to get an agent.
CB: Wow, that's pretty impressive.
RT: Well, you look at it as that I paid my dues playing nine years in a less-than successful band.
CB: [laughs] Now, how much did your teaching period inform the work you've done since? There have been a fair number of high-school settings.
RT: It had a tremendous effect. Working with kids in journalism is different from teaching them Math or English. I worked with them after school, on yearbook, in a different setting than the classroom. They'd talk about their relationships and their lives, and those conversations stayed in my mind. The funny thing, though, is that although the protagonist of Rats Saw God is in high school, I meant for it to be an adult book. I was twenty-eight when I wrote it, and I felt the themes were mature. So I was a little surprised when it ended up being marketed to "young adults."